File this one under “We’ll believe it when we see it,” but Republican members of the House of Representatives are insisting that sometime soon, they will be producing the GOP’s alternative to the Affordable Care Act.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because Republicans have been promising that an alternative to Obamacare is just around the corner for more than six years, now. But that didn’t deter Rep. Fred Upton (R-OH), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee from telling The Hill newspaper this week that this time the party is really, really close.
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Upton, a member of a small task force tapped by House Speaker Paul Ryan to deliver an alternative to President Obama’s signature domestic achievement, urged reporters to “give us a little time, another month or so” adding that by then they will be “pretty close to a Republican alternative.”
Promising to do away with the Affordable Care Act has been part of the Republican catechism since it was signed into law in 2010, but the task became infinitely more complicated once the bill took effect in 2014, and people began receiving care. Nevertheless, some individual members of Congress have actually proposed replacements.
Last year, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, offered a plan to replace Obamacare with a system based on tax credits and insurance portability. However, it failed to collect much support from his fellow Republicans.
In early 2014, three Republican senators, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and Orrin Hatch of Utah proposed a plan to scale back Obamacare and eliminate the individual mandate -- a move that arguably could have killed the law entirely. It also went nowhere.
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Later in 2014, House Majority leader Eric Cantor had to concede that there wouldn’t be a replacement plan coming out of the House of Representatives that year. Months later, he was defeated in a primary election and retired from Congress.
In fact, promises to produce a viable Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act have been so frequent that for healthcare reporters like Huffington Post’s Jeffrey Young, they’ve become a years-long running joke.
The history of failure to deliver on past promises may not even be the biggest reason to doubt that the GOP will deliver a plan soon. Upton told reporters that his task force is still in “listening” mode and is in discussions with many different experts.
Even if the goal is a proposal, not an actual piece of legislation, the likelihood that a small task force could write up a plan to fundamentally reshape the enormous US healthcare sector in the space of a few months is exceedingly small. But the Republicans have always seemed oddly optimistic about their ability to get rid of Obamacare somehow. After all, the chances of President Obama signing a law to gut the his signature legislation were always zero; but that didn’t stop the GOP from holding dozens of votes aimed at producing bills that would have required just that.